tv PBS News Hour PBS March 1, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. a humanitarian crisis is quickly coming to a head in libya as thousands of refugees try to escape the fighting. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, the latest from the libya tunisian border, plus margaret warner talks with an eyewitness to last night's battle between pro- and anti-qaddafi forces outside of tripoli. >> we are in a very bad situation. maybe we'll be invaded at any
time. there will be a massacre. >> brown: then, the prospects for a long-term deal on federal spending cut. we hear from democratic senator dick durbin of illinois and republican congressman allen west of florida. >> woodruff: we look at the core issue dividing state employees and legislatures with shrinking budgets. who has better wages and benefits, public or private sector workers? >> brown: and marcia coyle of the "national law journal" analyzes two decisions handed down by the supreme court today on employment discrimination and corporate privacy. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> oil companies have changed my country. >> oil companies can make a difference. >> we have the chance to build the economy. >> create jobs, keep people healthy and improve schools. >> ... and our communities. >> in angola chevron helps train engineers, teachers and farmers; launch child's programs. >> it's not just good business.
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>> woodruff: more and more refugees crowded libya's borders with tunisia and egypt today. the u.n. estimated that 140,000 people-- most of them foreigners-- have fled the violence inside libya. and tunisian guards at a main crossing point fired into the air at times today, as they strained to maintain order. we have a report on the tunisian border from alex thomson of independent television news. >> reporter: desperate to get into tunisia and for some the wait is too much. manhandled over the frontier walls into the hands of the medics. on the wall they kick them, they hit them, but still plenty get through.
which tunisia is allowing but one by one. only at this rate the tunisian officials process them into the country. >> it's been working very well so far. everyone is getting some. we also have high energy biscuits. they have just arrived. >> reporter: for those stuck the other side of the frontier wall, there is bread thrown, water to follow. and all the while from their tinted windows, the border guards loyal to colonel qaddafi looked on. inside tunisia, there is immediate medical help for those in need, and there is more food-- plenty of it-- and the cues are long but they're patient.
it's a logistics crisis, a chronic shortage of buses to get these people on their way, and an hour south at the airport, a shortage of planes. >> i think the main problem is how do you get people out of there? i think this is where we are appealing to the international, you know, community, to get together to transport these people back home. i think this is the problem so far. >> reporter: overnight scores of fence sprouted in the desert shrubs courtesy of the united nation. they're building more to cope up with up to 20,000 people unable to move on because of the bottle neck. everyone has a different story, but these chinese workers it's a few days' break in the luxury hotel. but back at the border 70,000 less fortunate individuals have arrived in recent days. tonight unconfirmed reports that colonel qaddafi's forces have shut the frontier on
their side. >> brown: to the east, there were also growing concerns along the egyptian border. hundreds of people waited at a town just inside egypt, hoping to get onto buses. and a relief group organized a convoy of cars to bring in food for the evacuees. >> woodruff: a tense calm prevailed today in tripoli, where moammar qaddafi remains in control. we get that part of the story from bill neely of independent television news in the libyan capital. >> reporter: colonel qaddafi is in power behind a phalanx of tanks. he has now repositioned them around tripoli. anyone who tries to take the city will have to take on a lot of hardware and hard men. these tanks encircle tripoli. four battalions, more than 200 tanks in all. more than enough to defend the capital. the worry for qaddafi is the loyalty of their commanders. he, after all, came to power in a military coups. his armies of para-military
militias run by his sons, regular troops and special forces make him impregnable as long as they remain loyal. he can lose though. he has lost zawiya 30 miles from tripoli and two tanks in the last two days have failed. the rebels there redefy him still. >> he controls everything: the weapons, the people. >> they killed everything. he attacked a mosque. >> reporter: these men say qaddafi's officials were injured by gun fire from protestors. civil servants, a lorry driver, a policeman all shot in tripoli, they say by opponents of qaddafi. tripoli and its suburbs are tense, ringed by check points and in the sights of the rebels. from tripoli today, colonel qaddafi sends an aid convoy to
libya's second city benghazi which is already in the hands of rebels. food and medicine from the dictator who they are a long way from overthrowing. >> brown: forces loyal to qaddafi tried overnight to retake key city just 30 miles from tripoli. witnesses in zawiyah said the battle lasted for six hours, but the rebels repulsed the attack. a short time ago, margaret warner spoke with a resident in zawiyah, whose name we will not reveal for security reasons. >> warner: thanks for joining us, sir. tell us, what is the situation right now? >> the situation in zawiya, the boys are in control of all the city since nine days ago. they took over the city and everything under control. >> warner: by the boys, do you mean the rebels? >> we are not rebels. we are not rebels. we don't want to be called rebels. we are revolutionary forces.
>> warner: how hard is the government trying to retake your city? >> the last thursday there were a big invasion and 17 people were killed. more than 50 injured. that's a major assault from the forces of... and these forces of the boys of qaddafi. >> what happened last night? we heard they made another major assault. >> since that big assault the government forces seized the city from three sides. from the east, the west, and the south. and they're making our ambushes and assaults. there is killing, but we are under siege now. we are under siege. last night we were certain that if we don't give up they will bombard us by air force. so the reaction of the people, they come out of their homes,
women and children and old people and everybody, and stand maybe 10,000 waiting. so maybe because they have agents among us so they told them about this. this bombardment happened last night. >> warner: did the government's forces manage to get into the town itself? >> no that's impossible. no that's impossible. they can't do that because zawiya has three or four streets to get in. so the boys have their forces in this main entry to the city. >> warner: how did the weapons your town fighters carry compare to the arms the government forces had? >> well, they have all kinds of weapons. they have artillery. they have tanks. they have everything. but we have nothing. we are a peaceful people. we have only maybe guns to catch rabbits and birds.
>> warner: hunting rifles. >> that's all. that's all. and we have some weapons which we took from them. the boys managed to take from them. actually we depend on our strength, our power is our confidence of ourselves. and confidence of our beliefs. and we want to be free. at the same time, i am calling on you and all the world. we are in a very hard situation. we are hit from three sides and maybe we'll be invaded at any time. it will be a massacre. so we want the united nations to help us. we want the help from all the world. everything you can do for us because it will be a massacre. we want the united nations forces. we are a peaceful people. we don't do anything. enough. enough is enough. >> warner: and how are you
able to live in zawiya right now in terms of food, clean water, the basics of life? >> we're still managing. you can't believe the confidence and the happiness and the patience. everybody is hugging. between them and everybody who has money, they bring it. everybody who has bread they bring it. we are okay until now. we have a shortage of medicine and a shortage especially of the baby milk. but in terms of food, we're still managing. time is against us. they have everything. we have nothing. we're under siege. don't listen to those people abroad who said we don't want intervention because they are sitting there and they're having... yes, they said we don't want intervention. >> warner: are you expecting another assault tomorrow? >> every hour we expect an assault.
they're trying every time to make ambushes. to try us, to try us. but the boys are very confident. as always, they push them away, push them away. but they don't make a major assault yet. i don't know why they are waiting. maybe they're afraid. i don't know what their tactic. they will do it. and it will be a massacre. raise your voice and we ask all the humanity to protect us from this dangerous situation. but we are confident. we are strong. we want to die for our freedom, for our country, for the democracy, for a different society, for everything we're looking for. we are ready to die and we are strong. we are not afraid. but at the same time we want the help of the world. >> warner: thank you so much. thank you for joining us.
>> thank you. >> woodruff: in washington today, secretary of state hillary clinton said a strong american response to the libyan crisis is essential. she told a congressional hearing that the north african nation is at a critical juncture. >> in the years ahead libya could become peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war or it could descend into chaos. the stakes are high. and this is an unfolding example of using the combined assets of smart power: diplomacy, development, and defense. to protect american security and interests and advance our values. >> warner: secretary clinton also left open the possibility of a no-fly zone over libya to ground qaddafi's warplanes. at a separate hearing, the head of the u.s. central command, marine general james mattis, said enforcing it would be challenging. >> you would have to remove air defense capability in order to establish a no-fly zone.
no illusions here, it would be a military operation. it wouldn't just be telling people not to fly airplanes. >> woodruff: the idea of imposing curbs on libyan air space drew a sharply negative response today in moscow. the russian foreign minister said any such action would be "a serious mistake" unless the u.n. approves it first. >> brown: still to come on the newshour, moving towards a deal on spending cuts; assessing public versus private sector pay; and today's supreme court rulings. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the president of yemen is now accusing the u.s. of instigating protests against his rule. president ali abdullah saleh has been a u.s. ally, but he charged today the white house is directing the unrest from an operations room in israel. a u.s. state department spokesman denied that charge. meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people staged the largest protests yet in yemen. they turned out in cities across the country, demanding again that saleh step down.
in neighboring oman, troops were deployed near the border and north of the capital, muscat, to try and rein in anti-government protests. and in iran, witnesses said police used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds of protesters in tehran. they were demanding the release of two opposition leaders. activists have reported mir hossein mousavi and mahdi karroubi were jailed in recent days. the unrest in iran and the rest of the middle east pushed the price of oil back up today. it gained more than $2 in new york trading to settle above $99 a barrel. at a u.s. senate hearing, federal reserve chairman ben bernanke said the resulting spike in gas prices has not damaged the economy. >> higher gas prices take income out of the pockets of consumers and reduces their spending and their confidence and so it can also be a problem for recovery. so we have to look at it from both perspectives. my sense is that the increases
that we've seen so far are obviously a problem for a lot of people do not yet pose a significant risk either to the recovery or to the maintenance of overall stable inflation. >> sreenivasan: bernanke did suggest the recovery would be hurt if prices stay high over the long term, and that assessment sent wall street tumbling. the dow jones industrial average lost 168 points to close at 12,058. the nasdaq fell more than 44 points to close at 2737. the securities and exchange commission has charged a former board member of goldman sachs with insider trading. rajat gupta allegedly leaked information about the investment bank's earnings, and an impending investment by berkshire hathaway. the s.e.c. says the tips went to a hedge fund manager. according to the charges, the hedge fund group made more than $16 million in illegal gains. the nato death toll in afghanistan grew by three more today. one soldier was killed by insurgents in the south. the alliance said two others died in a bombing in the east on monday.
that brought the toll to 36 for february, and 68 for the year so far. this was a day of mourning in new zealand for the estimated 240 victims of last week's earthquake. people across the country stopped to observe two minutes of silence. it began at the precise moment the quake rocked the city of christchurch, one week ago today. hundreds of rescue and recovery workers also paused from their efforts. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: the house of representatives took a critical step forward today in averting a potential government shutdown. >> a joint resolution is passed. >> woodruff: the two-week spending bill approved today was supported by nearly all house republicans and a majority of democrats. the stop-gap measure would extend funding for the federal government through march 18 but cut $4 billion in spending. on the chopping block, $2.7
billion in money directed by members to home state projects. $650 million in highway funds, and $368 million from the department of education. g.o.p. representatives like georgia's tom graves said it was time for congress to learn how to live within its means. >> i want the american people to know this, that there are more spending cuts on the way. some of my colleagues on the other side, they'll say, you know what? we don't need to cut spending. in fact we've heard that. we're heard they want to freeze spending instead which is akin to tying a brick to the accelerator of a vehicle that's going off the cliff when we need to take our foot off that accelerator. >> woodruff: some democrats like minority whip steny hoyer argue the cuts would hinder the country's recovery from the session. >> democrats believe that spending cuts are part of the solution. let there be no mistake. we need to cut spending. but we also believe that those
cuts must be smart and targeted. not pegged to an arbitrary number. >> woodruff: president obama and senate democrats had wanted a four-week extension, but republicans held firm to their shorter timetable. majority leader harry reid said today the senate would act swiftly to pass the house version. >> i'm anxious to meet with mcconnell and boehner and anyone from the white house any time. we need to work our way through this. but the sooner we get that short-term plan done the quicker we can move ahead. >> woodruff: president obama joined the negotiations personally today when he phoned house speaker john boehner. white house press secretary jay carney described the conversation as a good and productive call. that came after boehner commented that the president's involvement should have come sooner. >> if there had been a conversation about this ten days ago or two days ago, you
know, we might have had something to talk about. but the fact is that we were forced to move on our own. i think we're taking a responsible path forward to keep the government open and to meet our commitment to cut spending. >> woodruff: with a two-week agreement seemingly taken care of, lawmakers will now make another run at a long-term plan to keep the government running through september. >> woodruff: joining us from capitol hill is senate majority whip dick durbin of illinois. senator durbin, thank you for being with us. >> it's good to be with you. >> woodruff: senator, we don't know the long-term outcome but in the short run is this a victory for the house republicans and especially the tea party that they were able to get $4 billion in cuts in just two weeks? >> i guess they could claim a victory if they'd like but i don't think it's much of a victory. i hope everyone agrees-- republicans in the house as well as people across america-- that shutting down the government is not a good
idea. this notion of when the next social security check will arrive, whether the troops will be paid, whether there's enough equipment, whether air traffic controllers will show up for work, it doesn't speak well of our government. at this point we have a two-week agreement. we'll move forward. i certainly hope we can reach a much longer agreement. >> woodruff: as you know the house republicans have won another $57 billion at least in cuts. the democrats are saying, freeze spending a current levels. that's a pretty wide gulf between the two of you. do you see it coming down somewhere in the middle, $30 billion? >> i'll tell you now that i've been home and take a look at what the house republican budget does to our economy in illinois and our jobs in illinois, i certainly don't believe we should be moving in this direction. remember, the democrats in the senate have already cut $4 billion. $45 billion from the president's budget request. the house republicans are insisting on $100. but if they would go home and take a look at at what it does
to the jobs in their districts and states, i think they might have a different view. >> woodruff: are you saying the democrats you don't want to see the democrats move at all in the direction of the cuts the house republicans want? >> i'll tell you, we've already moved in that direction. what i'm saying is we need to draw the line. we can't kill the things that are critical for this economy like education and job training, research and innovation and basic infrastructure that we can build the economy of the 21st century. >> woodruff: republicans as you know very focused on the debt. they talk about a $1.6 trillion debt. what cuts are the democrats prepared to make? >> we've already made $45 billion in cuts so it isn't a question of a good-faith effort to reduce the deficit. remember, all of the republican cuts are coming out of 14% of the budget. they're taking out of domestic discretionary programs. they're cutting things that frankly have been struggling to survive anyway. instead of looking at defense spending, instead of looking at entitlements or taxes,
they're focusing on 14% of the budget. it is not a balanced approach to dealing with a serious national debt problem. >> woodruff: they seem pretty implacable, senator. how do you see this getting resolved? >> it gets resolved from people of good will sit down and act like grown-ups. it means that both sides have to listen to the other and work out differences. today we basically heard from speaker boehner, it's over. no more conversations. you came too late. you should have been here ten days ago. we reject your offer. it's two weeks and that's it. that's not a good starting point. we need a much more positive view, if you will, of a relationship between the house and the senate and the white house. >> woodruff: now, we heard, you mentioned, i think speaker boehner. he said today that this could have at least been a four-week extension if something a little bit better than this, if, he said, president obama had gotten involved earlier. then we heard senator reed, your majority leader, say he believed the president is going to get involved in a way of taking this decision on cuts to the american people. what is meant by that?
>> well, the president plays an important role in this. the president has stepped back and allowed congress to work its will. but there will be a point where the president steps up and says, this is what we need to do to move forward. i think his voice will mean a lot. we want to get this economy moving forward and create jobs. it isn't just about bragging rights on a number when it comes to budget cuts. it's making certain that the cuts are thoughtful. the idea of eliminating funding for research across america, medical research? how can that make any sense whatsoever? a 10 or 20% cut in medical research at the n.i.h., saying to the national laboratories where critical research in energy efficiency is underway that we're going to basically close down half of their programs the remainder of the year? that's not a thoughtful approach to deficit reduction. >> woodruff: senator, do you think it's realistic to expect the republicans to come down from 57 or 60 billion where they are now to the freeze? >> i think it's realistic for them to sit down and bargain in good faith, to listen to us as we listened to them.
to decide what is best for this economy. as i said if this is not bragging rights for the biggest number in cuts, then we've lost sight of our responsibility to make a serious judgment about whether a cut is important for the future of our economy or it is not. $100 billion in a short period of time doesn't show the kind of reflection and thoughtfulness the american people expect of congress. >> woodruff: senator dick durbin, the majority whip this the senate, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: we learn now to the u.s. house of representatives. for a republican point of view. that comes from tea party backed freshman congressman allan west of florida. representative west, thank you for talking with us. >> thank you for having me, judy. >> woodruff: perhaps you just heard the majority whip in the senate senator dick durbin say that the democrats have already given. he said we've already cut $45 billion. and the greater cuts that you and other republicans want cut into people and programs in the greatest need. >> well, i think that's pretty
much a disingenuous statement that he made. you'll have to understand when the 112th congress showed up, we showed up without any budget. we also knew we had to do something about the spending. for the past three years we have seen 1.42 trillion, 1.29 trillion and now 1.65 trillion of deficit. over the past four years we've been 5 trillion dollars of new debt added. the american people know we have to start tackling this thing in washington d.c. and i think we've been very reasonable. as a matter of fact you look at the g.a.o.report that came out today with all the duplicitous programs that we have up here, estimated between $100 billion and $200 billion so i think that the senate democrats need to understand that the 57 to 60 billion dollars now that we're talking about is nothing compared to what we have just seen happen today with this report. >> woodruff: representative west, we also have not only the democrats but i guess dozens of economists came out with a statement today saying that these kinds of deep cuts will do harm to the economy just at a time when it is
struggling to break out of this recession, to get into a more robust recovery. >> i don't understand the comments you're talking about the goldman sachs. we know they have very serious problems with some of their estimates up there as well. but when we're talking about cutting back on government spending, we're talking about putting money back into the pockets of the american people. we're talking about putting money back into the pockets of our small businesses. we need to look at how we can lower the corporate business tax rate. so that our corporations can grow. if we are cutting back on the growth of washington d.c. and this burate karatic nanny state that will only benefit the recovery of the main street of the united states of america. >> woodruff: you don't see cutting programs i think senator durbin mentioned cutting medical research, cutting infrastructure that cities and localities need around the country as programs that are needed? >> well, there are some programs that came up as part of the amendment process. some of the community service block grants that i thought were not necessary to be cut.
i did not. but i think when you look at what we sent forward those are very good, very well thought through cuts that the american people have supported. look, we have to start somewhere. if we continue down the road, we can't just have a freeze of current levels of spending because this is what got us into this situation as we are in right now. so sometime we have to begin to turn around the process of out of control spending up here in washington d.c.. the american people are going through and they're looking at the budget. they're finding out these programs that need to go away. they're expecting us to do the exact same thing. >> woodruff: let me ask you the same question i just asked senator durbin. where is the middle ground here? you and the republicans in the house acting 57 to 60 billion in cuts. the democrats in the senate and otherwise are saying we want a freeze. i mean, are the two sides going to come together? are you going to be able to sit down and have this adult conversation that some people are calling for? >> i think the adult conversation comes in listen to go the will of the american people. i think also when you look at some of the things that happened in the previous congress, there was not a call
for compromise. there was not a call for negotiation. a lot of legislation got rammed through on closed rules. but now all of a sudden we hear this thing about meeting together and finding a middle ground. you know, we have found... we have been put in a very dangerous situation as far as our economy. if we're going to have any type of recovery going forward we have to tackle this thing called spending cuts. the democrats need to understand that their policies of out of control spending, the stimulus spending which was about $1 trillion, that failed. they're the reason why we have these out of control deficits, the debt and this high unemployment. >> woodruff: most of the negotiating we assume will be going on between the senate and the house by your house republican leadership. are you prepared to go along with recommendations made by the house leadership, smaller cuts than what you and others who have been backed by the tea party want if that is the only way to avert a government shutdown? >> i think that the house republican leadership is going to stand firm. the only ones that are talking about a government shutdown
are the people on the other side. this is political gamesmanship trying to recreate the events of 1995. we came up with a solution today to make sure that we can continue to operate this federal government, keep it funded, but also tackle once again the problem of spending. that was the $4 billion that you saw bipartisan pass. now we need the senate democrats to step up to the plate show leadership and do exactly what the american people have willed in the house of representatives. we need the president to do the exact same thing and not play this game of russian roulette with the american people and our economy. >> woodruff: very quickly as we know in any negotiations both sides have to give. is your side prepared to give? >> i think we have already given. i think the american people have given. when you talk about the exorbitant spending and the debt and the deficit the american people have given and they're tired of it. it is time for us to step up as leaders and as adults as you said and tackle these hard problems and stop looking for the easy way out. >> woodruff: representative allan west, we thank you very
much for talking with us. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: we turn now to the >> brown: next, the wisconsin showdown, and the question of public sector pay. >> kill the bill. kill the bill. >> brown: the two week old battle in wisconsin over collective bargaining rights for union workers remained at a stand-off today with no signs of a deal in sight. even as that played out, this afternoon governor scott walker presented his budget plan for the coming year to the state assembly. >> the facts are clear. wisconsin is broke. it's time to start paying our bills today. so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow. >> brown: outside the capital hundreds of angry protestors continued to march against the governor's plan to help close the state's deficit by curbing or ending bargaining rights for most public sector workers. >> it's a sea of red ink in madison.
>> brown: walker got some support today in the form of a television ad put out by the republican governors' association. >> in wisconsin leaders don't run away from tough problems like the senate democrats. instead, they stand and lead. like governor scott walker. >> brown: that came after president obama reiterated his support for public employees yesterday. >> i don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. we need to attract the best and brightest to public service. these times demand it. >> brown: in fact, two new national polls offered some comfort to embattled unions. the "new york times"/cbs news poll found that 60% of americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. 33% support the effort. and a few research... pew research poll released
yesterday found 4% of adults surveyed nationwide sided with the union while 31% sided with governor walker in their dispute. a deissue in the national debate the public sector workers do better than those in the private sector. or to put it more bluntly are state and municipal employees overpaid? numerous studies have been done but researchers draw different conclusions. partly due to factors that make direct apples to apples comparison difficult. those include differences in salaries based on education level and wide variations in compensation packages among states and municipalities. and how to weigh the benefit of a traditional pension versus the riskier 401(k) or less tangible benefits such as increased jobs stability. in the meantime the debate over unions continues to spread beyond wisconsin. in ohio today, thousands of protestors converged on the state capital where legislators are considering taking up a bill this week
that would end collective bargaining rights for all public workers and eliminate their right to strike. we take up the contentious contention and we take up the contentious question of public versus private sector pay with harley shaiken of the university of california at berkeley, where he specializes in labor issues. and chris edwards, who works on tax and budget issues at the cato institute, which is dedicated to free markets and limited government. harley shaiken, let's put our cards on the table first. you don't see public sector employees as being overcompensated, right? >> absolutely not. i think there's ample data that indicate that they are not overcompensated. the average public worker in the united states earns about $49,000. but when you adjust for, as you put it earlier, education, experience, the character of the job, public workers earn their wages are 11% less than those in the private sector. if you add all the benefits into that picture, they're 7% less. that's hardly overcompensated.
are there cases in some occupations, some states where they are? perhaps. but i think overall they are paid less than their private sector counterparts, and the state really is a place where those who earn the least... the state ought to be setting the standard for better pay not for sweat shops, even within the constraint of a very serious fiscal situation on a state level. >> brown: we're going to walk through some of those. chris edwards your cars here. you see an unhealthy balance in how the public sector employees are compensated. >> i think for state and local workers their wages on average across the country are pretty well in line with the private sector. teachers and police and fire, the academic studies i've seen, the wages are pretty reasonable and competitive. it's the benefits where the state and local workers have a huge advantage. to give you a couple examples. virtually all full-time state and local workers get old- fashioned defined benefit pension plans that are typically very generous.
private sector workers very few of them get these pension plans anymore. these government pension plans are far more lucrative generally than private sector 401(k) plans. secondly virtually all full time state and local workers get retiree health subsidies. the typical worker retires at, say, age 55 or 56. then they get ten years of health care subsidies before the federal medicare kicks in. that's the type of benefits that people in the private sector simply don't get. finally as your piece pointed out, public sector workers get a lot more job stability. they have huge job stability which has a value. so a private sector teacher earning $40,000 and a government teacher earning $40,000. they're not comparable because the government worker has a much more stable job. >> brown: that puts a few things on the table there. but start with the pensions versus 401(k) issue. that part of the benefits.
>> i think chris is raising some legitimate points here. government workers tend to have more defined benefit plans, meaning you know what you're getting in that check at the end of the month. but we have to come back to the overall cost of all this. the overall cost can be summarized in one figure. when you adjust for education, experience, the character of the job it is 7% less, the cost to tax payer 7% less than comparable work in the private sector. >> brown: what does that... i'm sorry to interrupt you, but what does that mean to adjust for education? use the education as a way of explaining this. help people understand. >> well, it means that, for example, in the public sector workers on average have 54% of them have bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees. in the private sector it's something like 34%. historically and today in the private sector those kinds of
educational qualifications result in higher pay. so when you compare public with private sector workers, you've got to take into account that so many more public workers in wisconsin, for example, it's double the percentage of the private sector have this advanced education. therefore they're going to be earning more in a comparable job. >> brown: let's just stay on the education, the role of education level. does that sound right to you? what do the studies tell us? >> when you adjust for education and experience and all that sort of stuff, some of the studies show that the state local workers earn a little bit less in wages. others show that they're about equal. for example, usa today study last year on 200 occupations, you know, trash chreblgtors, teachers, et cetera, comparing state and local to private workers on average the wages were about the same. it's the benefits where the real difference is. and none of these studies take into account the fact that the public sector pension and retirement health plans are enormously overpromised or
underfunded. all the government... none of the government data that these studies are based on take into account the fact that the government pensions are about $3 trillion and the government health care plans are about $1.5 trillion in the hole. so there is a really big problem on these overpromised benefits. >> brown: what about the current benefits issue, where the health care coverage is one of the issues in wisconsin, of course, is the effort to get public sector employees to contribute more to their current health care benefits. >> well, these are very serious issues. we do have a fiscal crisis on the state level. but we have to put that into a larger context. that crisis was caused by the collapse of the economy by the financial sector imploding and the recession that ensued not by greedy or overcompensated public workers. going forward to the extent we have a problem, that's a serious subject for negotiation between the elected representatives of the
people and the state or municipality and the elected representatives of the workers in that area. that's called collective bargaining. mayor bloomberg in new york put it very nicely. where we have a problem let's negotiate. so could we have a problem going forward? of course. that problem is caused by issues unrelated to the public workers directly. they didn't get us here. they may have to give something to get us out of here. but that is collective bargaining. >> brown: everybody is agreeing we have a problem. whatever caused it. but the question is, how do you solve it? the issue... the specific issue here you're saying chris edwards that you can look at the public sector wages and compensation benefits as a place to cut because it's just too much? >> absolutely. i think one of the things that the governor of wisconsin is doing right is he's increasing the required worker premiums for the pensions and health care benefits. that will help reduce the long- term unfunded obligations
which otherwise would fall on tax payers. you're introduction piece did point out something very interesting which is that states are dramatically different in the level of problems that they face. some states like wisconsin, illinois and california have very high government worker wages and very large pension, unfunded obligations. other states like texas and virginia do not very large problems. harley brings in collective bargaining. i've run statistical comparisons and found that the states that have high union shares, high levels of unionization are generally the states that have the biggest pension problem and the largest premium for government workers. so, you know, i think that's where the unions come into this. >> brown: yet another large issue, harley shaiken. when we're looking at the historical nature of all this. we just have a minute. respond to that. >> well, i think that chris is raising some points but he's... he has the causality
wrong. in unionized states we can point to unionized states where they are doing very well in the current crisis. we can point to states without collective bargaining where they're collapsing. the key here is that the unions give us the ability to adjust to this in a fair and equitable way going forward. as one nurse's aide in wisconsin put it, government jobs are the jobs my children might want some day. unions are a vital part of ensuring that there are decent jobs and that they attract the best to teach our children to fight fires, to provide security in our cities. these aren't trivial issues. the data does show, in fact, that there is no relation between the worst collapses in the states today and whether or not they're unionized. unions are part of the solution getting out of this not part of the problem. >> brown: very brief last word. >> a dozen states do not have unions in the public sector including very well run states like virginia. i think unions often stand in the way of reform.
we don't need them in the public sector. >> brown: all right. we promised to continue this debate. chris edward, harley shaiken, thank you both very much. >> woodruff: back in washington, the u.s. supreme court issued a pair of unanimous decisions on corporate privacy rights and employment discrimination. in the first case, justices rejected a claim brought by at&t, to find that companies' internal records are not protected by personal privacy rights under federal law. in the second case, the court ruled in favor of a fired army reservist, and said employers can be held liable for workplace discrimination, even if they were not directly involved. here as always to take us through both decisions is marcia coyle of the "national law journal." >> hi, judy. >> woodruff: two unanimous findings by the court. let's take this job discrimination decision first. this is a case, as we said, brought by an army reservist who was fired in his position of hospital technician. >> right.
he worked for proctor hospital. his immediate superviseor and her superviseor were extremely hostile to his reservist obligations. >> woodruff: this is in illinois. is that right? >> that's correct. they showed their hostility in a variety of ways including comments to co-workers and creating what he said were special rules for him that he inevitably broke and then put disciplinary reports in his personnel file. back in 2004 one of the superviseors went to the vice president of human relations at the hospital to complain about the man. on the basis of that complaint and the vice president's review of his personnel file, she fired staub. he sued the hospital under the 1994 uniform services employment and reemployment rights act. saying that hostility to his reservist duties was the motivating factor for his firing. and that violated the law. a jury agreed, awarded him about $58,000 in damages.
lower federal appellate court reversed. he brought the case to the supreme court. >> woodruff: what did the court decide? >> the court said here that the hospital was liable. why? an employer is at fault when one of its agents takes an action based on discriminatory animus with the intention to cause and ear in fact did cause the adverse job decision which was the firing of staub. >> woodruff: marcia, is it thought that this will have an impact potentially on other job discrimination situations? >> absolutely. the analysis that justice scalia applied here, he wrote the majority opinion, was a very essentially from very common agency principle that a principal, here, the employer is responsible for the acts of its agents. it may well apply under the nation's major job bias law, title 7, and other job bias laws as well. >> woodruff: let's talk about the other decision today.
this was over whether corporations have a right of personal privacy. this is the at&t case. what was at issue? >> at&t wanted to block the disclosure of certain investigative records and documents that were held by the federal communications commission when a competitor com-tell sought disclosure under the freedom of information act. at&t claimed that these records fell under an exemption from disclosure for records that could reasonably be considered to lead to an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. so the court had to decide whether corporations had personal privacy rights under the freedom of information act. this specific exemption. and the court said no. >> woodruff: what's the significance of that. >> first of all chief justice roberts wrote the opinion. and his sometimes humorous analysis, he said that personal... he rejected at&t's
argument that personal because it has the root word "person "and the freedom of information act defines person to include corporations that that means corporations have personal privacy rights. he said that while adjectives typically modify their root nouns that's not always the case. for example, handwriting that you can't read but crab is a type of apple and corney has nothing to do with corn. so he said when we talk in common language about personal privacy, personal correspondent, personal interest, personal influence, we're really not talking about corporations. we're talking about human beings. and personal privacy, he said, evokes human concerns not entities' concerns like at&t. he had a kicker to his decision. sort of clever. but think about it closely. he said we trust that at&t will not take it personally,
meaning the decision. >> woodruff: (laughing) >> at&t has other exemptions that it can look to under the freedom of information act. but a lot of groups watch this case closely because of last year's decision in the major campaign finance case, the now infamous or famous citizens united to see if the court would take an expansive view of corporations' privacy rights as it did corporations' free speech rights. but that didn't happen. this was a narrow decision under the freedom of information act. >> woodruff: all right. marcia coyle, thank you very much. >> my pleasure, judy. >> brown: finally tonight, another in our series on poets and poetry. we profile charles wright, author of more than 20 books of verse, and winner of numerous
honors, including the pulitzer prize and national book award. his most recent collection is titled "outtakes." >> my name is charles wright. i live in charlottesville, virginia. i've lived here for 27 years now. i write poems. that's my reason for living. most of my poems start with me looking out the window or sitting in the backyard as the dusk comes down. and what that sort of translates into into my thinking at the moment. i used to think the power of words was inexhaustible. and how we set the world is how it was and how it would be. i used to imagine that words swayed and words would silence the silence and all that. that words were the words, that language could lead us
inexplicably to grace as though it were geo graphical. i used think these things when i was young. i still do. as one gets older, one tries to do more with less. i was much more locquacious when i was younger. the most recent things i have done have been quite brief. six-line poems. i once said that if a guy can't say what he has to say in three lines, he better change his job. well, i haven't gotten that far yet. i'm down to six lines. they're hard. it's hard to get more into less. but it can be done. looking out the west-facing window, how is it one comes to terms with life? one never does, i suppose. everything getting narrower. the children drunk and abusive, the sky breaking up but the
clouds not moving. our lives are such common stories. fallen leaves on a long path. we wait it out, i guess, counting our sins and our have not done's. immortality is for others. always for others. the subject matter will change. what i'm looking at and what i'm thinking about and so on and so forth. but the content which is language, landscape and the idea of god particularly the last one is unchanging, unvarying. and it's behind all of my poems even the ones that may not look like it. that's how poetry has always been for me. it's been a way of sustaining my questions about life and mortality and all those things that we don't like to talk about. but they're always there, you know. knocking on the window. i think i'm going to take my
time. life is too short for mortality. i have enough memories now for any weather. either here or there. i'll take my time. tomorrow is not what i'm looking forward to. or the next day. my home isn't here. but i doubt that it's there either. empty and full have the same glass. though neither shows you the way. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. more and more refugees crowded libya's borders with tunisia and egypt. the u.n. warned of a budding humanitarian crisis. a tense calm prevailed in tripoli but qaddafi forces tried and failed to retake a key town 30 miles away. and u.s. stocks plunged after federal reserve board chairman
ben bernanke said surging oil prices might hurt the recovery if they stay high over the long term. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 170 points. and to hari sreenivasan, for what's on the newshour online. hari. >> sreenivasan: you can watch charles wright read from his work on our poetry series page. and there's more on the humanitarian crisis building on libya's border with tunisia and how international aid groups are responding. plus, you may remember our recent story on watson, the ibm supercomputer who bested two jeopardy! champions on the quiz show. well, now watson has met his match. it's new jersey democrat rush holt. holt, a physicist, beat watson in a trivia faceoff last night on capitol hill. there's more on our science page. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: hope for mankind. and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at the supreme court arguments in an anti-terrorism suit brought against officials from the george w. bush administration, i'm jeffrey brown.
>> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. hope for makind indeed. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> you can't manufacture pride, but pride builds great cars. and you'll find in the people at toyota, all across america. >> okay, listen. somebody has got to get serious. >> i think... >> we need renewable energy. >> ...renewable energy is vital to our planet. >> you hear about alternatives, right? wind, solar, algae. >> i think it's going to work an a big scale. only, i think it's going to be affordable. >> so, where are they? >> it has to work in the real world. at chevron, we're investing millions in solar and biofuel technology to make it work. >> we've got to get on this now. >> right now.
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